WCU Wind Ensemble hosts Christmas performance

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Western Carolina University’s Wind Ensemble recently held their second to last concert of the season at the Bardo Arts Center. The ensemble, consisting of over 50 students and led by Conductor Margaret Underwood, played a variety of arrangements including variations on “America” by Charles Ives, “Lincolnshire Posy” by Percy Aldridge Grainger and Daniel Welcher’s “Sixth Symphony.”

One of the most anticipated pieces of the night was “Concerto for Marimba and Wind Orchestra.” Written by French Composer and Percussionist Emmanuel Séjourné, the concerto is heavily influenced by the classical music of the western world, as well as modern jazz and rock music. Underwood believes that the concert may have been the first public performance of the concerto in the United States, and it was characterized by an expertly handled marimba solo by Senior Music Performance Major, Daniel Myers.

Another piece the band was particularly excited about was Dan Welcher’s “Three Places in the East,” a collection of pieces influenced by traditional Cherokee music. Underwood described this symphony as a story of nature and its endurance against man-made influences, and the creative use of instruments to create sounds like rain falling, leaves rustling in the breeze and even a train screeching down the tracks supported that idea. The conclusion was so powerful that Music Performance Major and Bassoonist, Andrew Tucker couldn’t help but let out an audible “wow” when it was over.

The show lasted from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. with only a short intermission before the final symphony. Each of the four collections were divided by a short explanation of their influences, and the band kept right on playing for the rest of the time.

“It was an excellent performance,” Junior Music Education Major and Trombonist, Sam Rohed said after the concert. “It was definitely the most challenging repertoire we’ve had to work with. It was so long, but our execution was great overall.”

Michele Bennett, an attendee of the concert, was similarly impressed by the dedication and endurance the ensemble showed.

“We’re all very proud of these guys,” Bennett said. “They made this very entertaining.”

Putting on a show of this scale is no small feat, and the ensemble made their appreciation of public support well known. Leading into the final symphony, Underwood issued her sincerest thanks to George H. Brown, the recently appointed dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts, whose administration played an integral role in securing the necessary rights and resources to put on the show. She also thanked School of Music Professor, Will Peebles, as well as several other instructors who worked with the ensemble to get them ready for such a demanding concert.

Several members of the ensemble will be leaving at the end of the semester to begin student teaching programs, internships and other post-graduate plans. Although they’ll have the chance to participate in the Sounds of the Season concert in a couple of weeks, this was their last time performing as the wind ensemble. The emotional tension was palpable, but the members agreed that they made the most of the experience.

“This is going to be my last concert with this group, and I’ve honestly never had so much fun on stage before,” said Senior Music Education Major and Trumpeter, Spence Howell. “It was just unreal from beginning to end.”

Underwood couldn’t have been prouder of the performance her ensemble gave. As the final song came to a close, she could barely contain herself as she took her final bow.

“I am just overwhelmed with emotion right now,” Underwood said. “They all played from the bottom of their hearts, and in the end, that’s all I could have ever asked for.”

The Sounds of the Season holiday concert will be the next and final performance of the year for Western Carolina’s School of Music. It will be held at the Bardo Arts Center on Sunday, Dec. 3 at 3 p.m. Tickets at the door cost $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and university staff and $5 for children and university students.

For more information on upcoming fine arts performances on campus, visit the Bardo Arts Center website at www.wcu.edu/bardo-arts-center or call them at (828) 227-2479.